National Older Workers Week (NOWW) runs from Monday 21 to Friday 25 November in 2022. The spotlight is on us folks, for once, so let’s seize the moment to speak up about what our concerns are and to educate ourselves by looking at the numerous resources available on the state of play.

While at one time retirement beckoned at somewhere around the 50 years old mark, these days more and more of us are working longer into our late 50s and, even, 60s. Given that the state retirement pension age is 67, a long working life beckons unless you have a thriving private pension pot.

How many older age workers are there?

According to the Office for National Statistics:

  • In April to June 2022, the number of people aged 65 years and over in employment increased by a record 173,000 on the quarter to 1.468 million, which is also a record level.
  • This increase was driven by rises in part-time work, and those who joined employment worked relatively few hours, so the average hours worked for those aged 65 and over fell in the last quarter.
  • The industries where informal employment is more common, such as hospitality and arts, entertainment and recreation, saw some of the largest increases.

Has the pandemic affected employment for older workers?

Recent Labour Market data has shown that adults aged over 50 years in the labour market continue to drive the increase in inactivity. In May to July 2022 there were 386,096 more economically inactive adults aged 50 to 64 years than in the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic period (December 2019 to February 2020).

What concerns do you have about being an older age worker?

Speaking from personal experience, pre-Covid, my thoughts about being an older worker centred around wondering how I would cope in an office setting if I developed health problems. Let’s face it. The modern workplace caters, at optimal level, for people who are 100% able bodied regardless of age. Generally speaking, however, it is older people who develop health problems sooner than the younger cohort.

Where does this leave us (older workers)?

When Covid struck I became acutely aware of being an older person with underlying health conditions. I kept hoping that restrictions wouldn’t be lifted too soon because, put plainly, I was afraid of being among people in the enclosed space of the office. I wasn’t alone.

On 2 November, The Guardian featured an article on how Covid has affected individuals. Some over 50 workers are either too incapacitated to work due to suffering from long Covid or are rather fearful of working in close proximity to others in the work place.

Are you an over-50 worker?

I want to know where the promised land of retirement that was sold to me when I was much younger has gone? Wasn’t there meant to be a rainbow at around the time one turned half a century. Instead, I have many more years of work ahead of me. This doesn’t fill me with much excitement but needs must.

Quite apart from living in fear of being found out that I cannot operate an Excel spreadsheet with much confidence, most of us ‘old timers’ also face other issues in the work place such as ageism and IT adaptability. Loneliness could become a factor too if, increasingly, the age demographic in your workplace leaves you in a dwindling pool of older colleagues whom you have worked with over a long period.

Is there a bright side to working while older?

Heck, yes. Working keeps your mind occupied. The mental stimulation and chance to interact with others keeps you agile mentally and physically. Besides, the money pays the bill or goes some way towards paying for the cost of living.